Air traffic results for the first six months of the year expanded 6.3% in year-on-year international passenger demand, slightly higher than the 5.9% full-year rise recorded for the year 2006, according to the latest report from the International Air Transport Association, IATA
However, passenger demand growth weakened to 5.3% for the month of June, the lowest growth rate in nine months, added IATA. Freight demand for the first six months of 2007 grew 2.7%, well below the 4.6% growth recorded for the full-year in 2006. While year-to-date demand growth is weaker than forecast, June year-on-year demand for freight grew 4.9%. This is the second consecutive month of strengthening demand for freight following the 5.0% growth recorded in May, and could be indicating a return to historical growth levels in the 5-6% range. Average passenger load factors were 75.7% during the first half of the year, up 0.6% over the same period in 2006. "A focus on efficiency, with careful capacity management, is keeping load factors at record levels. But the challenge will get tougher. Over the next 18 months almost 1,800 new aircraft will be deliveredÃÂ¢€"equal to 10% of the existing fleet," said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of IATA. Asia-Pacific's carriers will receive the biggest share (35%) of the new aircraft, to meet demand in the fast-growing Chinese and Indian markets. With a stronger emphasis on fleet replacement, but also to meet demand growth, European airlines will take delivery of 26% and North American airlines will take on 25%. "The new aircraft, operated efficiently with high load factors, will keep us on target to improve fuel efficiency 25% by 2020," said Bisignani. The Middle East led all regions with passenger demand growth of 17.8% that outpaced capacity growth and boosted load factors during the first half of the year. Africa followed with 9.9% thanks to improving links with Asia and the Middle East. Asia demand rose 6.0% due to favourable economic conditions followed by North America (5.2%), Europe (4.9%) and Latin America (0.7%). Air freight demand growth was led by airlines in the Middle East during the first half of the year at 11.7%. Demand growth in Asia Pacific rose 4.6% during the same period although demand surged to 7.4% in June following a 7.6% increase in May. Demand growth in Europe was sluggish (0.7%) and contracted in North America (-1.2%) and Latin America (-3.8%). "Strong passenger demand means that record numbers of people are expected to travel in August. Harmonized security measures across borders are more critical than ever. The US-EU agreement on the sharing of passenger data, signed this month, was a step in the right direction. But governments must focus much more on further harmonization to ensure that effective security is also convenient for passengers. A particular focus will be the UK, where unique screening policies inconvenience passengers with no improvement in security. The only beneficiary is the airport operatorÃÂ¢€"BAAÃÂ¢€"that continues to deliver embarrassingly low service levels by failing to invest in appropriate equipment and staff to meet demand. This must stop," said Bisignani.